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Moderate exercise increases metabolic rate for 24 hours

Resting energy expenditure (REE) is defined as the energy expended by a person at rest. More precisely defined, resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the REE measured just after awakening in the morning, which is used to qualify REE relative to calories burned. RMR is about one kilocalorie per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight expended per hour.

No matter how it’s defined, research has determined that REE is the largest component of the total amount of energy expended in a day — roughly 65 percent of calories used, which makes REE an important facet for successful weight management.

In my numerous hospital affiliations over the last 40 years, I have consistently measured REE — among other important variables, as part of my comprehensive weight management programs. It was quite common to find post-menopausal women and women with an undiagnosed low thyroid condition to have a significantly lower REE than expected — all of which required additional laboratory testing to support the finding.

Research — “Potential Causes of Elevated REE After High-Intensity Exercise”, which appears in the November 2018 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, commented that “fat-free mass (FFM) has a large influence on REE, explaining 25 percent to 30 percent of its variance, whereas fat mass (FM) normally explains less than 10 percent of the variation in REE.”

Furthermore, “other factors that may influence REE include variability in protein turnover due to muscle damage, sympathetic (muscle tone) and uncoupled phosphorylation (heat production) in adipose tissue and/or muscle,” — all representing the cost of doing business inside the human body.

Researchers from the Universities of Alabama, Birmingham and Tennessee reference that “REE is increased for 18–24 h after a high-intensity aerobic exercise bout of at least 70 percent maximal oxygen uptake,” which equates to roughly 85 percent of maximum heart rate.

As such, they chose to look at the influence of exercise — moderate and high intensity — on REE, resulting from the effect of any associated muscle damage and other metabolic regulators under energy balance conditions.

Thirty-three untrained, premenopausal women were recruited. Evaluations occurred at baseline, after eight to 16 weeks of training, and 22 h after moderate-intensity, continuous aerobic exercise (MIC) — corresponding to 50 percent of their maximum endurance capacity (peak VO2) or high-intensity interval exercise (HII) at 84 percent of their peak VO2.

Participants were sequestered in a room c—lorimeter during and after the exercise challenge. Food was modified to provide energy balance across 23 hours. Twenty three-hour urine samples and muscle biopsies were obtained, looking for mitochondrial muscle status and fat oxidation.

Researchers observed that REE increased by more than 100 kilocalories (kcal) 22 hours after the high-intensity exercise and more than 60 Kcals, after moderate-intensity exercise in aerobically trained women in energy balance.

The findings led the researchers to conclude that “these results suggest that if increased REE is the goal of aerobic exercise training, periodic bouts of exercise training must occur regularly throughout the week. This in turn may enable better weight maintenance and potentially offset weight gain, which may improve metabolic health. Indeed, the combination of energy expenditure from the exercise plus the increase in REE, after the exercise may enable individuals to do a better job of remaining in energy balance and avoid weight gain.”

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